Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers from Volume Two Episode 4 of Patriot Act.
This week’s episode of Patriot Act focused on a topic that always has sparked debate: civil rights. The topic of civil rights has changed slightly throughout the last decade or so, adding the voices of and opinions about the LGBTQ+ community to those about gender and racial equality (or, a lack thereof). In this episode, host Hasan Minhaj specifically covers civil rights as it relates to the four departments in the Cabinet meant to encourage equality for everyone. Those departments are the Housing and Urban Development department, the Education Department, the Health and Human Services Department, and the Justice Department. These sections of the government were designed to promote and protect civil rights in the United States, and that is exactly what they are not doing right now. Minhaj deems it impressive how poorly the heads of these departments are doing their jobs. He calls them the “death eaters” that surround Voldemort- yikes. Though he was using comedic hyperbole to get the audience’s attention, Minhaj isn’t all that off. Right now, in America, he claims that civil rights aren’t as prioritized as they need to be, especially by the people who are supposed to be making that happen.
The important thing to think about while watching this episode is that not enforcing civil rights is the same thing as not having civil rights. The former head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Jeff Sessions, is part of the reason why the government hasn’t been prioritizing justice in the U.S. according to Minhaj, who acknowledges the irony behind it. In the past, Sessions was accused of being racist and colleagues have even stated he often uses the n-word. During his time as the head of DOJ, he allowed processes that would block eligible non-white voters and never enforced Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (which bans discrimination based on race). He also made it more difficult to use consent decrees, which are settlements that resolve disputes between two or more parties without requiring anyone to admit to guilt. This is making it easier for police to discriminate.
Moving onto the next department head, Minhaj narrows in on Ben Carson, the secretary of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department. An important aspect of this department is making sure that nobody is discriminated against when buying or renting a place to live because of their race, gender, etc in accordance with the Fair Housing Act. The department oversees 4.6 million households with rental assistance. Carson has spent two years at HUD and has launched an investigation into discrimination in housing a total of one time. 4.6 million homes and only one time has Carson looked into potential discrimination. Minhaj includes a clip of the same man stating his beliefs that being homosexual is a choice and that poverty is a “state of mind,” which most of us know not to be true.
Not only is discrimination becoming a larger problem in homeownership, but now Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is also making it a huge problem in schools. She has put a halt on 1,200 civil rights probes started by the Obama Administration, which led to the unfortunate arrest of Trah’Vaeziah Jackson. In addition to allowing discriminatory cases such as Jackson’s, DeVos also cut the DOJ by one million dollars, claiming they could “do more with less”. “Betsy’s like, look, we’re just embracing minimalism like Marie Kondo,” Minhaj says. “Civil rights… they’re just not sparking joy for me,” he adds, making the audience (and myself) laugh. Additionally, DeVos also refuses to see gun control as an issue for the classroom and therefore denies the need to address it. In fact, in the most recent “investigation” of gun safety in schools, there was no mention of guns. “How do you investigate a school shooting without talking about guns? That’s like investigating 9-11 and not bringing up the date,” Minhaj points out. He sums up that Devos simply doesn’t care about students of color. Minhaj also brought up the ignorance Roger Severino has towards the issues of trans people in the U.S., which is particularly problematic because he has pushed agendas against their rights.
Minhaj makes one bad move in this episode, and it was making a joke about the Jussie Smollett case — way too soon and way too sensitive a topic to be making jokes about that right now. Minhaj recovers quickly and throws in a slightly better punch at the situation, making the audience that was giving a disapproving groan not thirty seconds ago laugh again. Minhaj articulated his opinions well as always and made sure to keep his viewers from getting bored while he did it. Patriot Act can be viewed on Netflix or Youtube, and new episodes are published every Sunday. I‘d recommend this episode to anyone who values civil rights or even disagrees with Minhaj’s point of view — it’s always a good thing to listen to the other side of an argument.
Featured Image Via Youtube